EFC Calculator Help

If you're not sure how to answer particular EFC Calculator questions, click the question marks ( ) that appear throughout the calculator. If you have more general questions about the EFC Calculator, please read the answers to these frequently asked questions.

For the latest college financing information, check out these EFC FAQs and paying for college articles.

What information should I have on hand before I start the calculator?

Since you'll be asked questions about your income, assets, and debts, you may find it useful to have the following on hand:

If you're a student, you'll probably want to have a parent nearby, too.

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Do I have to answer every question?

Yes, you must provide information for each question so we can accurately estimate your EFC. The only information that is not required is the names of your family members.

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Do I have to complete pages in order, or can I jump around?

You can go back to a page you've already submitted, but you cannot skip ahead. Each page is customized based on your previous answers. For example, if you indicate that there are four people in your family, on the next page the calculator provides three fields under "Student's Other Family Members."

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How does Student Status affect my EFC?

The EFC calculator is customized according to how you answer the first questions — they determine whether the student is financially "dependent" or "independent."

If the student claims to be independent, the student's school may ask to verify answers to these questions before federal student aid is awarded. Requirements for a student to be considered independent are very strict.

Also, even if a student is considered independent, some colleges will ask for parental information when the student applies for financial aid. When you know which colleges you are applying to, check with them to determine their policies.

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What's the difference between Federal and Institutional Methodologies (FM and IM)?

Financial aid is based on two eligibility calculations — the Federal Methodology (FM) and the Institutional Methodology (IM).

The FM is used to award federal and state financial aid. It is regulated by the U.S. Congress and is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The FM takes into consideration income, assets, expenses, family size, and other factors to help evaluate a family's financial strength (unlike the IM, it does not include the value of your home). The information used for FM analysis is collected on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Though the federal government may be the largest single source of financial assistance for families, a significant amount of aid comes from the colleges themselves. The IM is used by many colleges and private scholarship programs to determine students' eligibility for their own private funds. These institutions or programs may require students to complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® (PROFILE) in addition to the FAFSA.

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What if I can't provide 2017 income?

If you're unable to provide 2017 figures, estimate using 2016 income and tax records in addition to any salary records for 2017.

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What if I don't have actual amounts to enter?

If actual figures aren't available, estimate as best you can. If a question does not apply to you, enter zero — don't leave an answer blank.

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Should I use cents, or round?

When you enter numbers into the calculator, round — use whole numbers. Don't use cents or decimal points.

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Should I enter the dollar sign?

No, just enter the whole number. No need to enter special symbols — just numbers.

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What if I have a negative amount?

If you need to enter a negative amount — for example, if you've experienced a financial loss — please enter a negative symbol ("-") before the amount. That way we'll calculate appropriately.

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Can I save my EFC Calculator?

Yes, if you sign-in using your College Board user name and password, you can save the information you entered into the calculator. Click "Save Info" on any page to do so.

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My parents are divorced. Whose information should I provide?

As you're prompted for financial information, keep the following in mind:

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Can I use this calculator's estimate when I apply for financial aid?

Filling out this form does not qualify you for financial aid. You must still submit the actual FAFSA, the PROFILE application if required and any other forms required by your college.

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How do I project what a college will cost?

To find costs for a particular college or university:

To learn more about net price and other cost figures, read How to Get the Best Estimate of Your College Costs.

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Is my EFC the actual amount my family will have to pay?

Families often assume that the amount of the EFC will be the exact amount they are asked to contribute to college costs. But this isn't always the case. The actual amount your family is expected to contribute may vary for a number of reasons, including:

If you have a specific college in mind, you can visit its website and use its net price calculator to get a more accurate estimate of what it would cost you to attend that college for one year. Learn more about net price.

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